Book Review: Grey Sister – Mark Lawrence
Blogmas Day 13
Title: Grey Sister
Series: Book of the Ancestor #2
Author: Mark Lawrence
Published: April 3rd, 2018 (Ace)
Synopsis: In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.
All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the ambition of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a blade, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.
As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she has sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pull of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.
And in all this only one thing is certain. There will be blood.
“Never be so focused on picking a lock that you forget kicking down the door is also an option.”
Two years after the events of Red Sister, Nona is now fifteen and has moved up into Mystic Class. Nona’s enemies haven’t given up yet though. The powerful Tacsis clan is still seeking revenge for Raymel’s death, but the immediate threat is much closer, inside the walls of the Convent. Nona’s actions have gained her many enemies and when the Emperor’s sister Sherzal finally makes her move to take over the Empire, they seize their chance. The Inquisition arrives at the Convent, claiming to be hunting heretics and things quickly go downhill as it becomes clear that Sweet Mercy is no longer safe for Nona. Abbess Glass is in an equally precarious position as the inquisitors, under the direction of the Emperor’s sister Sherzal, take her into custody for trial and interrogation.
First things first – I have to point out how wonderful it is that this book started with a recap of not only the events so far, but also other knowledge we’ve gleaned about the world of Abeth. All series should do this – I can’t be expected to remember every last detail of a book I read a year ago, and I don’t always have the time to reread it before the sequel is released. Hopefully more books follow this pattern in the future. In some ways, it is very obvious that Grey Sister is the middle book, from how much time it spends laying the foundation for the conflicts ahead. The magic and world-building is expanded further, giving us more information about some aspects of the world that were a little vague previously, such as the shiphearts and devils. A lot of this book actually takes place outside the convent which provided some interesting new perspectives.
The character who surprised me most was Abbess Glass. I didn’t really expect her to have a POV in this book, neither did I initially see the reason. She did seem to be going along with the attempts to discredit her a little too easily, but I didn’t realize she was capable of maneuvering at this level and it was a delight to watch her plan unfold. Ara, Sister Kettle and Zole also play major roles in this sequel, and Zole, to my astonishment, is actually somewhat likeable this time around.
“Spend too long watching the long game and the short game will kill you.”
Nona on the other hand…she was still a great character, and I really liked how her voice and attitude has matured accordingly with her age while still remaining the same loyal girl who values her friendships highly. Her encounter with Raymel Tacsis has significantly changed her, with some interesting side effects. But the realism of her arc somewhat wears off in this book. She gets into plenty of tight spots, but as a reader, even when the situation appears most dire, we already know that she is going to make it out, especially since her powers and abilities only seem to be growing. The tension and sense of danger simply isn’t sustained enough to make it work. I hope she doesn’t turn into a super-powered cliche going forward, because it’s clear the events of this book were merely the first of many battles to come.
What I didn’t like and am honestly still unsure was needed at all, was Nona’s journey in Mystic Class, particularly her new rival, Joeli. The level of pettiness, teenage drama, and biased teachers really got on my nerves and I thought that we were already past Nona finding her place in the Convent and putting up with the dissenters to her presence there. And considering Nona has been a Novice for five years at this point, it’s weird that we’re encountering this new bully only now. Sure Joeli, even though she is frankly an infuriating character, does go on to play a somewhat larger role later in the book, but this initial drama seemed pointless and only seemed to speed up the circumstances for Nona to leave the convent.
Overall, this was very good for the middle installment of the series. The narrative drags a little in some places and appears to focus on random things in others, but the reasoning behind it becomes clear soon enough and all the pieces come together in an explosive finale that brings closer to present day when war has come to the Convent of Sweet Mercy’s doorstep at last. I can’t wait to see how this ends in Holy Sister, and I’m particularly curious about two things: how the problem of the world ending is going to be solved and what exactly is going to become of the Chosen One prophecy. There are a lot of threads left to be resolved, and I’m sure the finale is going to be as good a read as the first two have been!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All reviews in this series: